Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Trinity and Communion of Persons

I am preparing for a conversation/study today (part of my Theology 101 series) on the nature of God. Disciples, as a rule, have been ambivalent about the Trinity, but by background and inclination, I have been and continue to be firmly Trinitarian. As I prepared for today, I picked up Clark Williamson's The Way of Blessing, Way of Life (Chalice Press, 1999). Clark is, by self-definition, a neo-process theologian.

I found in his presentation on the nature of the immanent Trinity (God's internal life) something quite revealing and helpful. Take a read here and offer your thoughts:

We speak of God as one in order to make clear that God is not divided, not double-minded. We speak of God as three to affirm communion in God. Life is a blessing and well-being when all relations of domination and oppression are expelled. Communion among persons is the divine order and the intended human order of well-being. The fundamental intent of the doctrine of the trinity is to protect an understanding of God as a profound relational communion. A relationship (not merely a relation) of authentic communion among God, human beings, and all God’s creatures is the aim of God’s work in the world. It also calls radically into question and theologically undercuts, although hardly defeats, all human political and social arrangements that would subordinate women to men, Jews to Christians (as Christendom did in many ways, not the least through canon and secular law), one race to another, two-thirds of the hungry world to the one third that is comfortable. (p. 127).


Anonymous said...

Sorry, this makes no sense to me as it relates to explaining or supporting a trinity. Maybe your class would help. David Mc

John said...

Hmmmm. The trinity is a communion of three which has existed from forever. If God exists as a communion and not as a singularity, then God's very existence recommends to humanity that they too are most completely whole when they are in communion. Communion with God and with each other becomes the normative state.

To be in communion means to be responsible to and for one another. When in communion, as opposed to when in control, there is no superior/inferior, only members who are cooperatively equal in all respects.

Nice in theory, but I am not certain that this notion of communion accurately reflects reality, or possibility, or even that it is desirable in the absence of the universal establishment of God's Kingdom.


Allan R. Bevere said...

Excellent! From one firmly Trinitarian theologian to another, thanks for the quote!

Anonymous said...

I read a book recently - "The Shack" by Wm. Paul Young. In this book God was a black woman, Christ was a human man, and the Holy spirit is a sprit of the Tinkerbell varity. What is important in not the physical manifestation of the three, but the whay they interact. They are in purposeful communication with each other ALL the time. They are in communion with each other.

Until I read this simplified description of God the father, God the son, and God the holy ghost; the biblical meaning was well "freaky". Now it, the biblical, has meaning to me.

Thought I'd share.


Anonymous said...

Yeah Rial, but it took fantasy/ fiction to convince you? Isn’t that the argument in any case?

It just seems unreasonably divisive. Does it really need to be believed? Are we to try to convince the world of the trinity, to save? Aren’t the core messages important and not God's nature, which we could never comprehend anyway? I put this as a low probabilty of truth, and if it is, a low importance to God that we comprehend. David Mc

John said...
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John said...

For me the Trinity is a concept which is sometimes helpful to understanding.

But the nature of God is the ultimate MYSTERY - and belief in someone's guess about it should not be an article of anyone else's salvation. Besides, the consept of Trinity is so nebulous and yet so complicated that many don't have the wherewithall to seriously engage the matter anyway - I refused to believe that they are therefore denied communion with God.


Anonymous said...

I didn't mean to sound so incredulous. I understand the concept, and yes, it can be a helpful analogy. In fact, it was continually drummed into my head 6 days a week as a child and still didn't stick as truth very well. I think God is everywhere. Even if he isn't, I'm sure he's capable of multitasking. David Mc

Mystical Seeker said...

Interesting reference about Clark Williamson being influenced in some way by process theology. It seems to me that process theology really renders trinitarian theology unnecessary, at least when describing the Trinity as a God existing in relationship or community, since process theology posits that God always exists already in perfect relationship with all of us in the world, all of the time, without the need for a Trinity to explain it. I have occasionally heard the idea of one of the three existing in human incarnation so that God could somehow experience what it is like to be human, but this is also unnecessary under process theology since the God of process already shares perfectly in every single human subjective experience, so God already knows what it is like to be human (this would seem to be part and parcel of panentheism, really).

And I have always wondered, if it is necessary to posit that God exists in a sort of weird inscrutible community that is both one and more than one, why do we stop at three? If God needs to exist in community, why not 17 instead of 3? Why not 1028?

Sometimes we are simultaneously told that God is an ineffable mystery and yet at the same time we are told that it is an unassailable tenet of faith that God has a set of highly specific and esoteric attributes surrounding being three in one. I'm not sure how we can both say that our understanding of God is necessarily fuzzy and then at the same time turn around and present an abstruse description of God as a necessary component of faith.

Anonymous said...

Anyway, today 3 in 1 is a registered trademark (since 1894) of the WD-40 company and they even admit it actually has 1000s of uses. It's about power, about the particular products' (or churchs') "trademarks". David Mc